Note: This post was submitted by BikePortland Subscriber Kevin Schmidt from Pedal PT. Want to submit posts on behalf of yourself or your business? Become a subscriber today!
With the onset of the rain this week, it’s always good to review some ‘best practice’ tips for dealing with the weather, while still enjoying your ride.
Here are some tips/tricks we’ve learned in our 7+ years of car-free commuting in Portland:
1) Always have a spare pair of socks and underwear at the office
2) Use ziplock bags inside your waterproof bike bag for added rainproofing for phone, wallet, etc.
3) If you wear glasses, a short brimmed cycling cap works great to keep the rain out of your eyes/glasses.
4) Lights lights lights. (When in on roads with car, pedestrian traffic, we prefer to use the flashing setting. However, if riding on a protected bike path, use a solid beam, but be careful to not point your light up towards oncoming riders faces.
5) Fenders and/or rain pants are really a must-have in downpour weather. Get them soon before they all sell out in your size – it happens every year!
6) I personally always prefered the hood of my jacket over the helmet (if your jacket can stretch enough, and still allow you to zip up fully). However, in the last year I got a nice snug rain jacket that zips up the neck a bit. When worn with a cap and helmet, I really never really get too soaked.
7) Layering is usually best, as rain tends to soak into your jacket if it’s on its second or third season. Start with a wool/wicking base layer, followed waterproof-ish jacket or vest, and then have a rainshell on top of all of it. (Yes, 100% not fun when you get sweaty!)
8) Waterproof socks (vs shoe covers) can keep feet and shoes dry, as rain pants will allow the water to drip into socks/shoes over time.
9) As many folks who have been year-round riders always say: “In the Pacific NW, there is no such thing as bad weather – only bad gear.” Invest in good quality waterproof jackets, rain pants, and bags – it will last 2-3 seasons before needing replacement.
Do you have other great tips for bicycling during the rainy months? Whatever you do… just embrace it!
If you’re new to town and want more great tips and advice, browse the BikePortland archives for a treasure-trove of insights and expert rainy riding tips.
— Kevin Schmidt, PT, MSPT, CMP, Bike PT is Owner/Founder of Pedal PT in Portland, Oregon.
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How do waterproof socks keep your shoes dry? Do you put them on over your shoes?
You don’t keep your shoes dry, in that scenario.
Another option would be full foot sandals, like Chacos or Keens, at least when we have warm rain.
Or have your 2nd favorite cycling sneakers sealed at a local shoe repair shop.
The good thing about sandals is that you can put on extra socks under goretex socks (mine are Canadian Army issue and go all the way up my calf.)
The big benefit of sandals is you can just adjust the straps and you lose no circulation. Sandals work great in awful weather. Who knew?
I hurt my knee and am desperate for a cabin fever ride. I’ve got the fever real bad.
I think this is a very personal decision. None of the rain gear options are as comfortable as riding in fair weather without rain gear; it’s a choice of the least-bad option based on your preferences and circumstances.
Personally, I don’t really care how dumb I look or if my gear is aerodynamic, so long as I’m warm, dry, and not sweaty on the way in, and don’t have to change much of my clothing when I get to work. I also have a cubicle where I can stash work shoes.
So – on top of my work clothes (office, business casual), I wear rubber boots, no rain pants (too sweaty), and a baseball cap with a see-through plastic brim (keeps rain off the glasses better than a short-brim cap while enabling me to see traffic lights, etc). And, most importantly, a rain cape (a biking-specific poncho) – keeps my torso, arms, and the upper half of my legs dry while having lots of airflow to avoid sweatiness.
This means all I have to do when I get to work is shed my rain gear and change shoes. Which is kind of awesome!
I really need to get a rain cape…
I have one. Makes me feel like a London Bobby. But yeah, my goal in life is to not sweat, so that works.
“Makes me feel like a London Bobby.”
I’ll try to sit up straight while wearing it…
I have one of these http://www.catoregon.org/cat-store/ultrex-rain-cape/
It works well on my upright xtracycle, keeps my lap dry and is quick to put on without overheating. It’s not so great in high wind, blocks the handlebar mirror, the puddling between your arms and managing the grips takes some getting used to, also doesn’t fit quite as well on the bike with drop bars.
I’ve been thinking about some kind of elastic to hold the sides down behind my elbow, which would help in the wind and with the mirror.
Another thought is something like “rainlegs” or other sort of lap protection with a raincoat. I can’t wear rain pants until temps are at least down in the 40s.
Rubber boots and wool socks FTW. Still haven’t figured out gloves.
These are my best solution for hand warmth. Soooo cozy and very difficult to lose. 🙂 http://portlandpogies.com/
As someone who rode year-round in Chicago, I found the best solution for hand warmth to be a pair of good quality ski gloves. They are grippy, warm, waterproof, and have a cinching wrist gauntlet that goes over your jacket sleeve that prevents cold air from getting in. However, they tend to be overkill for 95% of Portland winter days, though YMMV depending on your personal tolerance for cold.
I find ski gloves to be just about perfect here in Minnesota winters, but only used them in Portland when it was below freezing.
For most Portland winter weather, my personal choice is a pair of insulated work gloves. They still insulate fairly well when warm, and only cost about $20. Mine have hi-vis reflective elements on the back, which helps with turn signaling.
Yeah, I forget to mention all those rain cape downsides. Plus it makes it harder to perform hand signals, drink coffee, and remove accessories. Still better than getting all sweaty IMO 🙂
My Carradice rain cape’s hand straps work pretty well. They’re loops, so I just put my thumb in the loop and the tension from my shoulders pulling up on the top of the cape keeps the straps taught without any hand effort. It did take a while to figure out how best to use them. Putting them around my wrists was awkward, holding them in my hands took grip strength, etc.
The CAT ultrex capes hand loops are a stiffened strap sewn into the corners. They sit well on my knuckles, but not so much with thicker gloves and I have to be diligent about getting it where I can grip the brake lever if needed.
I have bar mitts, but I’ve only been able to use the right-side one because I’m too nervous about getting my hand back in from a signal to brake. I wear a thicker or second glove on the left hand, but keeping it dry is difficult. Maybe a neoprene half-mitten or something? Some of the scooter pogies seem to have a more open and shorter cuff. How do you use the pogies with a cape?
The Portland pogies are non-stretchy and have fairly wide hand openings and short sleeves, so it hasn’t really been an issue for me to get my hand in there, even with the rain cape loops in the mix. They keep your hands warm with a bunch of fuzzy fleecey material on the inside, not by fitting tightly.
The neoprene bar mitts aren’t particularly stretchy, but there’s not a lot of stiffness around the cuff and they lay flat off the bike, so the opening is only a couple inches high. Maybe some sort of hoop of boning in the cuff would help. Doesn’t your rain cape drain into your pogies with your thumbs looped in? I’ve been thinking it would be nice to attach the cape with some velcro or snap onto the tops of the mitts.
Chemical warmers are good when your hands get too cold, though that shouldn’t be a problem in the rain since the coldest rain will be in the low 30’s.
Pogies are great for keeping your hands warm, but I don’t think they’re a great idea for bikes ridden in tight areas since they can interfere with movements necessary in tight traffic.
Trying to keep hands dry on a bike is futile. Even if your gloves are fuly waterproof, the water runs down your arm into your gloves.
… But if you have a rain cape that covers your arms AND your hands then that problem is solved! 🙂
I ride with my pogies mostly on greenways and on a MUP. No squeezing past cars for me (except sometimes on the sidewalk past the 20+ cut-through “shortcutting” cars backed up on Ladd’s exiting Ladd’s Addition in the afternoon rush hour at Ladd/21st/Division).
I’m interested though, how do pogies interfere with “movements?” Mine only slightly interfere with hand signals. It’s easy to get my hands in and out….
I think they’d be fine for greenways, MUPs, and well over 99.9% of normal riding. I wasn’t meaning to say they are a general nuisance. Rather, that they could make the difference in a critical situation.
I am probably more sensitive about minor factors than most people since I like to descend hills near the handling limits of my bike every day and I get closer to cars other do. For example, if I believe cars are purposely trying to intimidate me by moving in, I get close enough to brush their mirrors with my shoulders. Tiny things like having your wheel kick a piece of gravel can be a big deal when you can’t afford to slip, and you can’t wear anything that might catch (even my rain gear is form fitting).
I have a Vaude Rain Poncho made specifically for cycling. It has a number of thoughtful features. For instance, the inside of the poncho has several straps: two in back that clip together around my waist to stop the poncho from flapping in the breeze so much; and two in the front that loop through a bike’s handlebars so the poncho becomes a bit like a tent, keeping my legs dry without the need for rain pants and providing a bit of “airiness”, thereby limiting the amount of sweat I produce. The hood fits tight, has clear side “windows” to maintain my peripheral vision, and includes a visor similar to a cycling cap.
I have one and they work well.
You know how the tops of your knees get soaked in a downpour? Not with a rain cape on. You can cover your arms too.
There is some technique involved to keep the thing from flapping around.
A rain cape works great too. Looks a little dorky, but I’ve been using one for years now that cost $20. Plus, you don’t get sweaty. Combine the cape with rain pants and you are good! I wear waterproof Columbia boots that have held up for 4 years so far.
All great tips. We’re not made of sugar. 🙂
Fluorescent road crew rain pants and Kinco waterproof insulated high-vis gloves from Sanderson Safety Supply! (Kinco is a local Portland company, so bonus!)
But totally agree with Alex that this is very personal. For instance, on the wettest days, I’ve found it’s easier to just ride with no socks, get my feet wet, and dry off and put on socks in the office. I know that most would not agree with me on this 🙂
I’m not usually a fan of high viz, but backpack covers in neon/highlighter colors are great for improved waterproofing, and visibility to motorists and other cyclists on darker, rainy days.
A few other safety afterthoughts, lowering tire pressure slightly to improve grip, and a tacky set of grips or handlebar tape for less handlebar slippage!
Some things I have learned: Check your brake pads and clean your bike every weekend, and grocery shop for your place of work. On a day I drive I bring a bunch of food along as I burn mega calories riding in the Winter. If I don’t keep up my calories I get all hangry and kick dogs.
I also bring containers of Huggies wipes for wiping the sweat off. I am thinking about buying some boot warmers to dry my shoes during the day, too. Wet shoes suck and make the ride home that much more difficult when the temps drop. Anyone use them at work and have suggestions?
I find that a standard fan, directed at my shoes, gloves, and rain gear during the work day, is enough to have everything dried off by the end of the day. Boot warmers aren’t necessary and could be stinkier than a fan.
I used to dry wet gear at work by sticking it on top of a big CRT monitor. At home I would hang it with a fan pointing up. It could even be in the garage, it’d still dry overnight with the air blowing on it.
I lived in Portland for 18 years before moving here to North Carolina. I miss many things about Portland, but I do not miss the cold winter rains. Here the rain is very heavy, with big drops, but it’s also very warm, over 70 degrees on most rainy days, even in winter, so sockless sandles and shorts work best. I’m also a big fat hefty sweaty guy, over 300 lbs, so most brands do not make my size in rain jackets. Instead I use a rain parka made by a fire-fighting supplier from Florida: http://mlkishigo.com/product/rainwear-rwj106-rwj107/. I have a 2x-3x, which still has space to breath when layering, but they make an even larger size.
On most days in Portland when it was cold and drizzly, I would wear a pair of quick-drying fleece pants instead of rain pants. They’d get a bit wet on the ride, but dry off at work. I’d also seam-seal my leather work shoes to keep water out. When the temperature was below 40 degrees, I would wear goretex socks over my regular socks, to keep the cold out. And a sealed helmet cover is a must – Performance often has them.
Yes, I have also found that quick-drying black pants that look like regular jeans work the best for me. Black is essential, as they will not look wet, even if 100% saturated. I can just keep them on when I get to work and they will be dry within the hour. Rain pants require a bathroom visit to remove (I am almost always running late for work) and are just a bit too dorky-looking for my taste. 😛
Great idea. Can you clue me in more on these pants? I’m not familiar with anything that dries quickly.
I typically wear Outlier Slim Dungarees year-round. Warning: they can be quite spendy (though cheaper than gas and maintenance for a car, is what I tell myself). Chrome has some cheaper (but not as nice IMO) offerings. Whatever you do, avoid denim in the rain – even the ones that claim they have a DWR. When cotton gets wet, it stays wet for a looooong time.
I wear super thin stuff normally for outdoor use year ’round. Thin synthetics (with zip off legs if your workplace allows) help keep you from swamping out your clothes and dry out super fast.
I’ve been in the Willamette Valley for sixteen years after four decades in NorCal, and my take on warm vs cold rain is the opposite of yours. I hated the warm 60-75F rain of NorCal because there was no way to stay dry. You either wear rain gear and get soaked in sweat, or you just let the rain soak you. A friend with a short commute used to just wear a speedo with his clothes in a bag.
In Oregon, I love being able to wear rain gear and stay dry. Temperatures in the 40’s F mean I can wear a light layer under a rain shell and not sweat if I take it easy.
In really heavy rain, especially when the temps drop, I strap on a pair of gaiters (the tall ones designed for snow). They look weird, but coupled with a good pair of neoprene shoe covers, my socks and feet stay dry. That setup would be too warm for today (51 degrees), but when the temps are in the 40-45 and below range I find the extra warmth also helps keep the ride pleasant. When the temps fall below 40 I dispense with the shoe covers and switch to waterproof winter cycling boots under the gaiters.
Please don’t encourage people to use flashing headlights. They’re dangerous for other road users. I’m often blinded by them as a pedestrian and occasional cyclist. It’s also dangerous for people with epilepsy.
YES to this!! And IMO blinking super bright rear lights are no better.
Yeah, it is super annoying to be visible.
Visible is one thing, blinding people with a strobe is another.
How are they dangerous? Is there supporting evidence?
There is none. Just one of those things people like to repeat…. until it becomes “common knowledge.”
Flashing lights between 3 & 60 Hz can trigger seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy.
I regularly see cyclists around town with very bright headlights flashing quickly (around 5-10 Hz). When I’m with my epileptic friend, she frequently gets nauseous and has to look away & sit down for a while.
Flashing lights have prevented numerous drivers from pulling out in front of me when I’ve been traveling high rates of speed (25-35 mph). Solid beams do not prevent this. I reserve flashing for high traffic, high speeds, or weird lighting, but I agree that they should never be used on ill lit paths.
Use a pulse instead of a daytime strobe appropriate for open highways. You can also change the aim of your beam. You want people to see you very easily, but you don’t want to distract or blind them.
My experience is the opposite: flashing headlights get me cut off and flashing tail lights led to more drivers trying to pass without enough space. If I have doubts about whether a driver has seen me or correctly judged my speed, I weave a SMIDSY while planning a way out. Generally moving to the left edge of the lane (at least out of the bike lane) will send a clear message that you intend to continue through.
I’m kind of curious about your setup — I find that flashers can help in many conditions.
However, if they are too bright and/or improperly aimed, they can make it harder for drivers to judge your speed or annoy them which can cause them to be less courteous. I see a lot of flashers inappropriately used.
I use different lights and aim them differently depending on the specific conditions I expect.
I used to have a flashing handlebar light which was not very bright and aimed about 20ft in front of the bike. With two rather bright steady headlights on each side of the fork. Switching it from flashing to steady has greatly improved things. Same with 3 taillights. Steady and widely spaced seems to work well (even at full 1000W electric assist), but somewhat irregular so it doesn’t look like an out-of-scale car.
I’ve done extensive experiments and gotten road reports from friends, family, strangers and cops over the years. Note that these reports are overwhelmingly from highway 22 and highway 99 which are atypical environments so they may not apply in urban riding.
My experience is that you want to be bright, but also be clearly identifiable as a human on a bike. I’ve tried all kinds of light setups and have the best experiences with cars when I have a single light on the bars (or duals really close to each other) and a single flashing taillight. Reflection on my back and arms outlines my body and reflective ankle straps show up down motion from afar.
My guess is that the reason your experience is better with steady lights is that when you have flashing lights all over the place, you may be super visible but it takes motorists a little time to figure out what you are. Or even worse, while they’re staring at you, there is a target fixation effect.
Road reports and personal anecdotal experience with multiple flashing lights was similar to yours which is why I like to run one high quality headlamp (nighttime pulse in town, full bright elsewhere) and one high quality tail light. I cant see as well as I could with a “Death Star” setup, but I can see quite well and motorists seem to deal with it well.
Which reminds me — few people do this but backup lights are a good idea and I always carry them. Especially if you’re in an area that is dark for real, having to navigate without lights is no fun.
I agree. Flashing lights are a huge annoyance in clogged bike lanes, and the rider with the flasher is the only one that doesn’t have to see them. Seems way inconsiderate. But….anyone have any data to show that flashers are way safer and worth their highly annoying presence for other riders? Thanks!
“clogged bike lanes”? Really? Where do you ride?
Exactly. There is no evidence that strobe lights are any safer. They’re outlawed in many states, WA included.
That was a reply for Ethan
“[Strobe lights are] outlawed in many states, WA included.”
Really? Can you provide a source for that? I don’t see anything about that here: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=46.61.780
“…A light-emitting diode flashing taillight visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear may also be used in addition to the red reflector.”
Get in your car.
..which is about as on topic and socially favorable as getting drunk and verbally assaulting your neighbors for no reason.
And sit for an hour stuck in the clogged traffic with 200,000 of my closest friends, getting frustrated and angry? Eh, I’d prefer to be slightly damp. Being outside in the elements let’s you know you’re alive.
and you can see
Taking a tip from Marion County and others for “visibility”, Norco offers very bright, reflective paint on their bikes.
Have anyone rode the new All-City Space Horse Disc in the wet weather yet?
For my short bike trips (taking kids to and from school), I wear a raincoat (I recently bought a sweet new Showers Pass Rogue Hoodie that I’m excited to wear this year!), rain chaps (Rainlegs from Clever Cycles*), and ankle-height rain boots. On longer rides, rain drips into my boots and the backs of my pant legs get wet, but I rarely do long rides in the rain.
For the kids, we’ve got rain pants (from REI), raincoats, and rain boots, and I also sewed some waterproof rain blankets (http://www.biscuitsandjam.com/index.php?firstID=1975) for the back of my longtail cargo bike, for the days when putting rain pants on children seems like too much of an ordeal.
Another thing that makes riding in the cold rain nicer is a pair of helmuffs (http://www.ravelry.com/projects/mycupcake/bike-helmet-ear-warmers). Toasty warm ears for minimal knitting effort! If you’re not crafty, there’s an Etsy seller who makes them.
*I initially had some issues with the thigh straps on the Rainlegs getting caught on my bike saddle when I pedaled, so I’ve ended up buckling them around the front of the chaps, to keep them out of the way. It makes them look a little weird, but whatever.
I have a large hooded (frog toggs) lightweight poncho that can cover one or two kids on the back of the xtracycle. I tied the corners into some snap-together nylon buckles which I click around the seat/top tube junction in the front, and cover the stoker bar. The back corners get connected through the rack at the back to keep it from blowing up. They wear rain boots and coats with hoods under their helmets. With two kids on, the one in back gets the poncho hood and the one in front just gets his shoulders and back+backpack covered (the front corners only reach around the stoker stem in this setup.) A polar fleece blanket covers the stoker handlebars for extra warmth and keeps off any light rain for short rides.
The poncho is also pretty good for getting on the bike without an awning, as you can stand under it at the back and help them into their seat without everything getting soaked. It can also act as a tarp over your seat and cargo while parked if you close the hood. I do sometimes wish for some tent poles to make loading/unloading easier. Why don’t we build more awnings here?
“Raining? Yay! I love poncho day!”
I am able to change at work and my commute is 7 miles one way but my setup is:
-Fenders with a long front mudflap (almost touches ground)
-Rear Strobe Light, Pulsing front light (steady on pathways)
-Neoprene cycling shoe covers
-Wool Socks (for under 50°)
-Rain resistant bib shorts (and knee warmers for 40°’s and under)
-Dryfit / Wool Undershirt depending on temp
-Waterproof cycling specific jacket or vest depending on temp
-Water resistant cold weather gloves (2nd wool pair under for below 40°)
-Waterproof backpack cover
-Clear Lense riding glasses
-Waterproof helmet cover
-Thermal cycling specific headband for cold
My motto is always to get as few things wet as possible (shoe covers keep shoes and socks dry, if it’s not cold my arms dry off quicker than jacket sleeves, etc.). And by staying on the colder side I can avoid sweating and simply need to dry off and change once I get to work. Props to people that can ride fully dressed with rain gear on over the top… I would be a mess.
I can’t agree with you more regarding fenders. Anyone riding in the winter in Portland should get the absolute best, I-am-the-alpha-and-omega, god-emperor pair of fenders they can find. The mud flaps should all-but scrape the ground.
I commute year-round (23km each way) in Vancouver in all weathers. I’ve found nothing that keeps me dry after 30 minutes, so I have given up and embrace the moist. I will use fenders for club rides, but for commuting I couldn’t care less. It’s just water. I also never wear a rain-jacket or pants. Just too hot, flappy and sweaty. I happy just to be wet. I have excellent shower and change facilities at work. I keep my work clothes at the office and have them laundered downtown.
Jonathan, it looks like you need to adjust your front fender so that the spacing is congruent all around the wheel. For some reason, that nuisance sets off my OCD like none other 🙂
I really thank the author for sharing the tips. I’m disappointed though at the assumption that everyone works in an office. Maybe people will roll their eyes about my comment and oversensitivity. But we all get upset when car drivers just roll their eyes when we say that not everyone drives a car. Nobody cares about out-groups until they are in one.
Good point and personally I think that non-office work requires a totally different approach — no option to change into dry stuff when you arrive.
Depends on the non-office environment. We have a locker room at my facility that is open to all employees, the majority of which are non-office.
I’ve taken to using a cheap umbrella with a coat or raincoat and appropriate footwear. I’ve found this works surprisingly well in all but the most gusty deluge.
Two things I’ve done for years:
1) Keep a low drying rack in my office under my desk
2) Have a small fan blowing on the items
Keep your head dry for cheap with a shower cap from a hotel.
As I learned the hard way a few years ago, it sucks to put on cold wet clothes for the ride home. I now keep an extra jersey, a pair of shorts, and socks in my locker, and thus always have dry clothes to wear home if I get soaked on the way in.
If it’s not too cold, and your commute isn’t too long, riding naked doesn’t hurt. As long as your clothes are in a waterproof bag, they’ll stay dry. Oh, and don’t forget to have a towel. One on you, several at home, and one or two at work.
Again: Always know where your towel is. It’s the most massively useful thing you can have.
The most dangerous and annoying part of rain riding, at least for me, is having to choose between a helmet and a baseball cap with standard bill. The long bill keeps the rain off my face but is incompatible with a helmet.
It is?? I rock a baseball cap + a helmet all winter long. The helmet keeps my baseball cap on in the wind! The only incompatibility I found is that you need to get a baseball cap without the little top nubbin thing.
Regarding waterproof gear, the article mentions jackets being good for 2-3 seasons.
Good waterproof gear lasts much longer than that. For example, Gore-Tex is guaranteed to keep you dry for the life of the product so if it starts letting water through years later, they’ll still replace it.
DISCLAIMER: I am a Gore-Tex product tester and receive consideration for sharing my views. However, I have used this stuff extensively for many years and have used the warranty for stuff I purchased with my own money.
That reminds me. One thing people aren’t aware of is that they need to rejuvenate the durable waterproof layer of their jackets with a waterproof repellent such as Nikwax (I have no relationship with them).
This helps your gear shed water. This helps prevent penetration and improve comfort by maximizing the breathability of your clothing and minimizing heat loss through conductive transfer and evaporation — if there’s water sticking to the outside of your jacket, you’ll get cold a lot faster whether your clothes are wet or not.
I find simple rain boots keep my feet dry. I have found no other solution that works as well. Remember to put the rain pants OUTSIDE the tops of the boots. If you have clips, I don’t have a good solution for you except pedals with clips that allow street shoes as well.
Cycling booties have an opening for the clips. It’s no biggie.
I like booties for cold or rain. I seem to wear them out, though. I guess I walk in them more than they are designed for.
I had the same issue. I actually just let my feet get soaked now since I decided my ride is short enough that I don’t really care that much
i’ve worn out 4 pairs of booties over the years (often in only 3-4 years). My thick neoprene craft booties with kevlar reinforcement have held up for several years with absolutely no sign of wear.
Well, heck, since we’re all piling on: Showers Pass Jacket (beginning its 9th season), Endura rain pants, waterproof Keen shoes (basic black shoes that are my “go to” footwear from fall until late spring), and a rain cover on my helmet. My wife put a large “buttonhole” in the helmet cover to allow use of my helmet light. I have been using the same pair of cheap motorcycle gloves as rain gloves for the past 14 years. And my bikes have fenders and generator lights fore and aft.
All I can say is wool, wool, wool! It is the best for most weather in Oregon. Wool naturally does not make you stink. Wool socks/clothes usually can be worn more than once- Really. Just air dry wet wool. I avoid any synthetic clothing. It always makes me stink. Its also terrible for the environment. Natural fibers like wool, cotton and bamboo don’t make me smell.
Yes, wool can be expensive but just like everything, you have to shop smart and take time to build your wool wares. When I was poor, I would look for wool at thrift stores and the Goodwill bins. The best type is marino wool, but any will do. Thickness is also important. For Oregon, thinner is better. A great place to get cheap and fun wool socks is in the spring and summer at Sierra Trading Post on line. Ski socks are colorful and fun. In the last ten years. I have had two Icebreaker wool zip up sweaters and they were worth every penny. I bought both of these on Steep and Cheap. com. for a quarter or half the retail price. Last year, Costco had some great thin wool long sleeve shirts for 20 bucks.
For footwear, I also invested in a pair of keen boots. They are waterproof, they breathe (they are leather) , and they look great with anything I wear. I have owned three pairs of these boots and I also got them online for half the price. I Iove them and never have to think about the right shoes for rain.
Whenever it rains, I make a calculation in my head- how will I get wetter? Wear my rain gear and get sweaty (and a little sinky)? Or will I wear layers of wool and let the heat of my body evaporate the water and sweat? For all rainy days, I will wear my rain pants. For downpours its all my rain gear. the rest of the misty days its rain pants and wool tops.
Wool is unambiguously the worst possible fabric from an environmental perspective.
Wool production generates far more CO2e than any other fabric (see Fig 2b):
Sheep herding has repeatedly devastated large areas of natural habitat:
What if we had sheep grazing on lawns instead of all of these lawn mowers burning gasoline? Harvest the wool by bike with solar-powered shears?
polymer fabrics can be efficiently recycled and efficiently manufactured from agricultural byproducts.
why do we not do these things?
fear of technology/science and a fundamental inability to comprehend long-term risk.
Yes, wool rules! Keeps you warm even when wet, minimizes body odor (seriously!), and breathes better than anything else in all weather – cold or hot. I wear wool socks, underwear and tops year round.
Haven’t found wool pants or shorts that work for me, but down to about 40 degrees (if it’s dry) or 45 (if it’s wet) I just wear shorts. Cold legs don’t bother me as long as I’m keeping my core warm. Colder and I’ll wear running tights (many of which also have nice reflective elements), possibly with long underwear beneath if it’s pouring rain in the 30s.
I also agree with the comment about bringing an extra set of dry riding clothes for the trip home, at least if you expect to get wet on the way in.
For lights, I’ve found the most effective setup is to have both a steady and a flashing light, front and back. Steady lights help drivers see where you actually are, while flashing lights (which don’t need to be THAT bright!) get your presence noticed at a greater distance, especially by distracted drivers. A lot of collisions involve drivers being “surprised” by cyclists, and the more time drivers have to prepare for their interaction with you, the better it usually goes.
I take seriously the concerns about too-bright blinkies (and poorly shaped/aimed steady lights) “dazzling” others. I don’t advocate using super-bright blinkies, broad-beam headlights (e.g., MagicShine), or using high powered lights on MUPs. I’d say the popular Planet Bike SuperFlash is about the upper limit of what’s acceptable for blinkie brightness. 200 lumen blinkies have almost no legitimate purpose except signaling spacecraft. As for headlights, unfortunately the vast majority of battery-powered models on the American market have conical beams that project too much of their light above the pavement instead of on it, unlike many European countries where the law requires bike headlights to have the same kind of sharp top cutoff as low-beam car headlights.
Personally I have just garden-variety blinkies and put them in pulse mode for nighttime use (although I will sometimes use strobe mode during the day). And although my main bike doesn’t have a generator, I finally retired my homebrew headlight system last year, and got a rechargeable Busch & Muller headlight with the “shaped” beam required in Europe and found on most generator lights. It cost me just under $100. While it puts out a lot less overall light than other headlights in that price range, it still throws a really bright beam on the pavement where it’s needed, with a lot less wasted light going too high where it just blinds everyone else. And its fairly large lens still makes it highly noticeable by other users without blinding them. I really, really strongly recommended this type of light.
Agreed on practically everything you said regarding wool, shorts, and lighting.
However, there are legitimate reasons for having blinkies brighter than a PB Superflash — but I don’t think they will apply for most people here.
If you ride two lane highways where traffic speeds are over 60mph,the PB Superflash is not bright enough in stormy or foggy conditions due to water in the air, road spray, etc. Significantly brighter is in order.
But for most urban riding, most of these super bright setups are detrimental. I downgraded my front and rear lights when I started riding here.
Agreed, Kyle. Higher speed roads in inclement weather might be one situation where brighter-than-Superflash is justified.
I work outside most the time, and I quit buying rain gear for work (8-10 hours a day) and riding when I discovered this stuff a couple years back.
Personally the shirt Jac and regular work pants is all I need for a day at work (heavy construction). I tried the flex hose pants out this summer, didn’t take the welding as well as the regular firehose stuff does, but they were comfortable and waterproof too and likely all most of you need. Been outside the last three days in this stuff, and I was dry underneath at the end of the shift.
SIzes tend to be a little large, and they look like regular clothes. Don’t expect any high viz or safety colors.
Oh yeah, they have the stuff for women too (up to size 18 or so).
Thanks for the Duluth Trading tip. I hadn’t considered the Fire Hose pants for biking, but will check them out. Fortunately I live within riding distance of a Duluth Trading store, so I can try them on before buying.